Date: Thursday, February 11, 2016
Time: 4:00 PM
Venue: Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex in Clearwater, FL
All-time Record: The teams have split their 15 regular season meetings right down the middle, with five wins each and five draws for good measure. The only result breaking the deadlock between the sides to date is the 1-0 US Open Cup semifinal result that sent the Union to the championship match.
How Chicago will look: The Chicago Fire started their preseason friendly circuit with a resounding victory against the University of South Florida, with contributions from David Accam, returning MLS veteran / trialist Arturo Alvarez, hard-nosed midfielder Razvan Cocis, and homegrown player Collin Fernandez. Look for the same cast of characters to provide the Union fits, and count on Harry Shipp to be his usual pesky self as well. Union fans will pay particularly close attention, however, to whether Fire draft pick Brandon Vincent sees the field upon return from his first taste of United States Men's National Team camp - after all, the Union passed on drafting the highly rated left back to select academy product Keegan Rosenberry in January.
How Philadelphia will look: Having rotated 31 players into last week's 1-0 preseason loss to Jacksonville Armada FC, the Philadelphia Union will probably take a similar approach to this stand-alone friendly. The coaching staff and fans alike will be watching for improved chemistry between the promising midfield trio of Tranquillo Barnetta, Vincent Nogueira, and Roland Alberg as Maurice Edu continues his recovery from surgery to repair a sports hernia. The Union will also look to build familiarity in the back between likely Opening Day starters Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Richie Marquez, Anderson Conceicao, and Fabinho (while still finding meaningful minutes for their rookie understudies). The most question marks at this point surround how the attacking personnel will be utilized - CJ Sapong is the only lock starter up top (on the current roster), while Walter Restrepo, Sebastien Le Toux, Leo Fernandes, Chris Pontius, Eric Ayuk, Fabian Herbers, and a handful of trialists will vie to solidify their roles within the system.
What to expect: The Union and Fire will want to banish any memories of their respective 17- and 20-loss 2015 campaigns respectively, and this preseason signals a relatively fresh start for both clubs. That said, these Eastern Conference rivals will face off in no fewer than three competitive matches in 2016, and neither will want to fully tip their hands (or risk injury in a glorified scrimmage). The starting units for both sides will likely see some time, but the most interesting aspect of the match may be monitoring the impressions made by the second, third, fourth, sixth, and twelfth overall MLS SuperDraft picks.